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Happy Mother’s Day

I’m so lucky that I have the mother that I do.

My mama taught art lessons at my school when I was growing up and painted murals outside the classroom doors at my elementary school.

She typed up my creative writing stories when I was little, and bound them into books with my illustrations.  She still has them.

She led my girl scout troop and my 4-H club, and organized camping trips and arena rides and all sorts of learning excursions.  We camped in the rain and the heat, but really, since it is the Pacific Northwest, we mostly camped in the rain.  We sold cookies and Christmas swags and manned hot dog stands and a million other things that are undoubtedly a huge pain in the butt for any parent.

She helped me bathe and scrub my all white horse after a muddy winter.  I bet she was pretty happy when I got a bay (and a warm water wash rack).

She let my friend move in with us when she was having a tough time with her family.

My mother is talented with all things crafty.  She can sew and quilt, paint, make jewelry, dye fabric, make paper and a million other arts and crafts.  I am in awe of her talent – I wish I had gotten the genes for any of it!

My mama taught me all about my family background, from my father’s ancestors in Poland and Bohemia, to her ancestors in Scotland and England.  We went to visit the places where my great-grandmother lived in Scotland before she crossed the ocean to Boston.  She tried haggis in Scotland.

She went on a road trip with me and when I just about crashed the rental car, we laughed so hard we cried – after of course.  When the dead bunny needed to be extricated from the grill of the same car, she grabbed a paper town and pulled him out.

She has taken care of my cats, my horses, my friends and me without hesitation.

My mama practices tough love when I need it, providing me with that candid perspective.  “You can do anything for 90 days.”  If I didn’t get to make the choice, at least I could affect the outcome.

Mom panning for gold. She makes it look effortless…

She lost my father, her partner and husband of over 50 years 3 months ago, but she hasn’t let that stop her from living.  Even with that kick in the teeth, she hasn’t given up.  She keeps trying, keeps getting things done. It isn’t fair and it sucks, but what other choice do you have?

She taught me that life is what you make it.  You try your hardest and do your best, and what comes to you is in direct proportion to your effort.  You look on the bright side even on the darkest of days.  You might take a break, but you don’t give up.

My mama hasn’t had an easy road lately, but I admire her fortitude.  She’s badass.  I hope I am just a little like her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

 

 

 

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Circus Trip 2018: Trail End and the Sheridan Inn

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After my nap, I was tempted to just stay at camp, but there were still things in Sheridan that I wanted to see.  That evening, there was an open house at Trail End State Historic Site, which is a 13,748 square foot mansion that was built by John B. Kendrick in 1913.  Kendrick was from Texas, and he first traveled to Wyoming as a cow hand with a herd of cattle in 1879; he moved to the Sheridan area in 1889 an then founded the Kendrick Cattle Company.  Kendrick married a woman from Greeley, Colorado and they had two children while building their cattle business.

He had the home built as a grand showpiece; construction began in 1908 but labor issues, low cattle prices, arguments between the two architects, and other delays meant that it was not completed until 1913.  As I understand it, it was named Trail End because it was meant to be the end of the trail for the family.  However, they only lived here full-time for a short period; in 1914, Kendrick was elected to be Wyoming’s Governor and moved to Cheyenne, and then two years after that, became a US Senator, an office he held until his death in 1933. They primarily used the home as a vacation home during that time. Kendrick’s widow Eula lived in the home with their son and his family from 1933 until her death in 1961.

The house is incredible; it is one of the only examples of Flemish Revival architecture in the Western United States.  It has all the modern conveniences of the time, including electricity and indoor plumbing, a laundry room in the basement, an intercom system and a built-in vacuum system.  The house has ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, eight fireplaces, and all the usual entertaining spaces, including a ballroom on the top floor.  The woodwork is Honduran mahogany, and it has a beautiful custom designed white oak staircase.

After Eula’s death, the family moved out and the home sat empty for 7 years; it was almost torn down!  Thankfully, the Sheridan County Historical Society purchased the home in 1968, and it was transferred to the state of Wyoming in 1982.  Most of the decor and furnishings are original to the Kendrick family – it truly is a glimpse into what a wealthy cattle ranching family home would look like.  There is also information on the family in the home; including the fact that they lived much more modestly as Kendrick was building his fortune as a young cattle rancher.

The open house was well attended; there were lots of people there enjoying the opportunity to do a self-guided tour of the home, as well as cookies and lemonade!  I took my time going through the house and checking out the amenities that it had.  You could tour the grounds as well, and enjoy the blooming flowers in the gardens around the house.  They even had a classic car parked out on the driveway – it was a gorgeous bright blue!

On the way back to the campsite, I decided to make a quick stop at the historic Sheridan Inn, a hotel that was built in 1892 and opened in 1893.  Buffalo Bill Cody was a part owner of the Inn, and he held auditions for his Wild West Show on the lawn in front.  It was closed for many years, but found new owners who restored it and reopened it in 2015.  When I stopped by, the owner, Bob, was there and he welcomed me in warmly, and said I was welcome to wander around the first floor and check it out.  I took him up on his offer and saw the parlor and the dining room, as well as the original check in desk in the lobby.  It is a beautiful place, and they did a wonderful job with the restoration.

I was so happy that I ventured out, even though I hadn’t really felt like it earlier in the evening.  I got to see two historic sites , and talk to some great people who felt passionate about history too!  It was a good end to the day.

Me at my Sheridan campsite

Circus Trip 2018: Museum of the Rockies

Day 8, Monday, July 23, 2018

After I left Bannack, I meandered through the back roads to make my way to Bozeman.  There are so many beautiful pretty back roads in Montana!

In Bozeman, I had just enough time to visit the Museum of the Rockies before they closed for the day.  Admission was $13 with my AAA discount. I started out with a movie in their planetarium – Faster than Light, which explored the technology required to get to the next closest planet of the next closest sun that could potentially have the right criteria to be able to support human life.  It boggles the mind to think about it!  The journey now is so far outside of a human lifetime, but scientists are still working on the technology to make it possible.

The museum has an incredible exhibits on dinosaurs!  The area that is now Montana had conditions that were near perfect for fossilization, so there are a lot of dinosaur fossils found there.  It was so neat to see the variety of dinosaurs that walked the earth.  I loved the fossil Triceratops skulls that they had there – seeing them up close really shows how big these animals were.  I had no idea that there were two different species of Triceratops!  They lived about a million years apart, and one was a descendant of the other.  I learn so much in my travels!

 

The Museum of the Rockies also had exhibits on the history of Montana and the Bozeman area.  They even had an exhibit on different types of guitars from around the world, including an “air guitar”!  It is nice to see museum curators who have a sense of humor.

 

Outside they had a historic pioneer home on the property that you can visit, but it was closed when I was there.  The Tinsley home was the second home of the Tinsley family, who homesteaded in Montana and raised eight children in a one room cabin.  The house was built in 1890 and was moved to the museum in 1986.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to go in the house, but I did see a cute Magpie hopping around though!

The Tinsley House; built 1890 on a Homestead Act claim

I went to Ted’s Montana Grill in Bozeman for dinner.  I was really hungry at that point, and it seemed easy and familiar since I have been to a Ted’s Montana Grill before.  I had the steak salad and it was ok, but I regretted not getting the bison burger!  I paired my salad with a Red Lodge Bent Nail IPA.  After dinner I had to drive to the next town over – Livingston, Montana, because I wasn’t able to find a campground in Bozeman.  That was one of the only times I wasn’t able to find a tent site in the town I wanted to be in.  The place in Livingston was decent, it was right on the river, but the tent sites were pretty small and close to the neighbors.

At the campground, I did laundry for the first time and talked with a kind, elderly man who was on a solo trip with his RV.  He was 79 and still traveling with his motorhome; he was trying to get back into it after his wife passed away the year before.  He was friendly, and we talked for a while about solo travel – he said his kids worried about him, and I could relate!  It was nice to just spend some time talking and watching a movie on TV with some company.

What a fantastic (and busy!) day!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Old Montana Prison

Day 7, Sunday, July 22, 2018

After I visited the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, I still had plenty of time in my day.  I headed over to the Old Montana Prison.  For some reason, I have a morbid fascination with old prisons, and this one didn’t disappoint!

The Old Montana Prison was in use from its construction in 1871, all the way to 1979.  Much of the present facility was built using convict labor, and the sandstone walls are 24 feet tall and extend 4 feet down into the ground to prevent prisoners from digging their way out.  Construction of the exterior walls began in 1893.  The oldest buildings currently standing at the prison are the original women’s building from 1907, and a 1912 prison building.

 

The prison is huge, and you can wander on a self-guided tour to see the cell blocks, cafeteria, women’s block, exercise yard, warden’s office, workshops and more.  I don’t think I would want to visit at night though; I’m sure the place is haunted!  The exhibits in the prison included information on the 1959 riot there, which resulted in the death of Deputy Warden Rothe and the murder-suicide of the two inmates who initiated the plot.  Several guards and other staff were held hostage for about 36 hours, before the Montana National Guard stormed the prison and ended the riot.  The inmates were rioting over the poor conditions at the prison, which got worse after the riot ended.

 

Another notable story is that of “Turkey Pete” Eitner, who was convicted and sentenced to life for murder in 1918. He became a model prisoner and was eventually put in charge of the turkey flock, which he proudly cared for.  His mental illness led to him believing that he owned the flock, which he then “sold” for a profit.  More entrepreneurial ventures followed, and he soon “owned” the prison.  Prisoners were permitted to humor him, and they printed checks on the prison printing press to pay for various things, and Turkey Pete “paid” for all the expenses at the prison.  When he died in 1967 after being incarcerated for 49 years, he received the only funeral ever held within the prison, and his cell was retired.

Turkey Pete’s Cell

The Old Montana Prison site also has four other museums on the site, and your admission fee of $15 (you get a discount with AAA) gets you into all of them.  The Montana Auto Museum has over 160 cars ranging from the invention of the first cars to muscle cars and sports cars.  Many of them are very unusual, including historic campers, and a replica of an 1886 Benz, which had one of the very first internal combustion engines.  I am not that into cars, but it was fascinating!  I was also impressed that they could get them all crammed into the building.  That would take a lot of planning to determine in which order they needed to be moved in, as well as some very good three-point turn skills.

 

The Frontier Museum has artifacts of items that were used by ranchers, farmers and frontiersmen during the Old West period.  There are firearms, saddles, spurs, a wagon, and Native American artifacts.  The Powell County Museum has artifacts that include mining industry items, and a local wood-carver’s collection.  Lastly, Yesterday’s Playthings has exhibits on model railroads, and dolls and toys.  Outside, you can explore an Old West Town, with homes and businesses that have been moved to the site.  None of these other museums take too much time, but are worth peeking into!

 

The museum complex also has a very unique museum shop.  The current prisoners in the Montana State prison system have the ability to make an assortment of arts and crafts, which are sold to the public through the museum store.  There are some very beautiful and intricate items, including paintings and tooled leather bridles.  I was in awe of their talent!

 

 

Soon though, I had to be on my way.  I drove to Dillon, Montana and found a KOA campground for the night.  I wanted to be close to my destination for the next morning!  I got there in enough time to enjoy the swimming pool and sit listening to the creek that ran alongside my campsite.  It was a nice place to park for the night.

Me at the Pool!

 

The creek at my campground, Dillon, Montana

 

Circus Trip 2018: Philipsburg, MT

Day 6, Saturday, July 21, 2018

I slept in a little that morning – maybe because it was Saturday, maybe because the early morning sunshine finally warmed me up enough to sleep well.  I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast.  Camping tip – I brought an electric kettle on this trip and it was one of the best items to have!  Even if I didn’t have electric at my campsite (which I usually didn’t), I could still tote that little kettle into the bathroom, plug it in and have hot water in 90 seconds!  No need to heat up water on the camp stove – it was a great morning time saver!

I read a bit during breakfast and enjoyed the morning sun.

My destination for the day was Philipsburg, Montana.  Philipsburg was a mining town founded in the late 1890s; after the mines and the lumber mills went dead in the 1980s, the town rebranded itself as a tourist destination.  It capitalizes on its historic downtown main street, as well as the sapphire mines nearby.  There are a couple of shops where you can “mine” for sapphires, sorting through bags of gravel and finding the valuable stones.

First I checked out the Montana Law Enforcement Museum.  It was a small museum; just one small room in a storefront.  They had artifacts and exhibits on the various Montana police, including information on officers killed in the line of duty, old uniforms and equipment used by departments, and even an old jail cell.  The museum is free to visit, although they do request donations.

A Police Call Box and Uniform

 

Police Patches, including Tacoma, Washington

I was getting hungry for lunch at that point, so I found the Philipsburg Brewing Company.  They are located in downtown Philipsburg, in an old bank building that was built in 1888.  They have maintained the historic flavor of the building too!  They don’t serve food, so I got takeout from the UpNSmoking BBQ House down the street and brought it back to the brewery to enjoy.  I ordered a Gonk Ale – it was delicious!

After lunch, I went to Gem Mountain.  I bought a $30 bucket of gravel to sort through.  They set you up at a table and show you how to go through your gravel to find the sapphires hidden inside.  It was fun digging through the dirty gravel!  It was certainly a good way to spend a couple of hours, even if I didn’t find “the big one”.

Sapphire Mining!

 

My Sapphire Haul

On the way back to camp, I drove the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial Highway; it passes through the town of Anaconda at the base of the Anaconda mountain range.  Anaconda was once the home of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, and this mine produced from the 1880s all the way until 1980.

Anaconda is an interesting story in itself, also holding mines in Chile which were seized by the Chilean government after socialist President Salvador was elected in 1970.  I was interested in that connection since I lived in Chile for a time during college.  It’s a small world, and things have a tendency to all be tied together.  But back to the Montana story – after the Atlantic Richfield Company purchased the mine in 1977, it turned out that ARCO just didn’t have the experience in hard rock mining, and the price of copper had dropped enough to make the mine unprofitable.  ARCO closed down the mine in 1980.  The site is currently listed as a Superfund site, due to the incredible amount of toxic waste that resulted from the years of mining.  ARCO and British Petroleum (BP), which later bought out ARCO, have spent millions decontaminating the site, but the work is far from done.

You can still see the 585 foot tall Anaconda smokestack, which was once the tallest masonry structure in the world.  When I was there, there was a herd of deer grazing; I saw 10 or 12 in the few minutes of my visit.

I headed back to the campground to have some leftovers for dinner.  Then I blogged and chatted with a few people at camp before bed.  A relaxing day on the road…

Me in Deer Lodge, Montana

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Last Day in Glacier

Day 5, Friday, July 20, 2018

On my last day in Glacier I got up early and left the campground about 7:30 am.  I was going to be driving up the Going to the Sun Road one more time and exiting out the east entrance of the park.

Since I had already seen some of the sights along the west side of the park, I just drove until I got over to the east side.  I stopped at some of the viewpoints and did a short hike from there.  On that hike, the trail ended up narrowing sharply and going through quite a bit of tall shrubbery and I was completely alone; I got a bit nervous that this might be prime bear habitat so I ended up turning around.  I did find a beautiful creek coming through a gorge near there though and took some photos.

 

 

 

I passed by St. Mary Lake and stopped to take in the view and take some photos.  St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, at 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep.  It has a small island, Wild Goose Island in the lake.  There are boat tours of this lake too, and it would be fun to go on one someday!  Interesting, the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was shot at St. Mary Lake.  In case you want to refresh your memory, here it is.  The views are stunning.

 

On the east side of the park I stopped at the Visitor’s Center for my stamp and to check out the exhibits on the Blackfeet tribe’s use of the park’s land as part of their traditional homeland; they call the area the Backbone of the World.  The park and the Blackfeet have a partnership now that allows the tribe to continue to use the land.

Also on the east side of the park is a 1913 Ranger Station; it was used as a ranger station until the 1930s, when it became ranger housing.  They restored it in 1976.  The site also contains a barn that was originally built in 1926, and was later moved to this location.  There are a few hikes that depart from the Ranger Station through the grasslands on the east side of the park.

The Ranger Station – 1913

The 1926 Barn

 

Upon leaving the park, I stopped to visit the Blackfeet Memorial, a memorial consisting of metal tipis constructed by the tribe.  There are signs at the viewpoint explaining where the Blackfeet traditional lands once extended to, as well as information about their culture, way of life, origin stories, and Blackfeet names of the mountains visible from the viewpoint.  This area was burned by fire in 2006; the Red Eagle fire consumed over 34,000 acres within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.  It was an interesting stop!

 

The rest of the day was spent on a long, meandering drive through rural Montana towards Philipsburg.  I had about a half a tank of gas, and told myself that I would get gas when I next saw a gas station.  I had enough for about 30 more miles by the time I finally saw a gas station!  This is big country, my friends, and a lot of it is very sparsely populated.  Get gas when you have a chance!

An abandoned home

 

A very strange rest area sign – do they really want trucks to the right, where there is no road?

I rolled into Deer Lodge, Montana that evening for two nights at the Indian Creek RV Park.  They welcomed tents, but they weren’t really well set up for them – $45 for 2 nights.  They parked me in the middle of a grassy lawn, and I felt a little bit like I was living in a fishbowl, surrounded by all the RVs! I was the only tent camper there.  They didn’t have any picnic tables set out, just a small gazebo on the lawn, which I ended up setting up my cook stove in – you do what you have to do.  For dinner, I had rice, polenta and turkey sausage – yummy!  That night was the first night I set up my tent; it would have been awkward to sleep in my car because it was just parked on the road alongside the grassy area.  I learned that even though it was hot during the day, it got really cold at night!

A bunny at my campsite

 

Sunset at my campsite

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Avalanche Lake Hike

Day 4, July 19, 2018

Today was day 2 in Glacier National Park!  I got up at 7, and got ready quickly and skedaddled at 7:30 am after accidentally setting off my car alarm…  Oops!  Sorry campers!  You know you wanted to be up early to hike!

That morning I went to do the Avalanche Lake hike – it was 4.8 miles round-trip.  This is a busy hike, for good reason, because it is beautiful, so go early and pack your patience to get a parking spot.

For me, the hike to Avalanche Lake is very much like the hikes at home, a dirt trail with roots and big rocks along the side of the trail.  It is a moderate hike, mostly in the shade – which was perfect on a hot day!  At many points along the trail you can see evidence of past avalanches and landslides that have taken down more than a few trees.  It is not unusual in these mountain areas.

The hike is fairly popular and I could see and/or hear other hikers at most points on the trail.  I was surprised by the number of people that didn’t have bear spray – given that Glacier National Park is heavily populated by grizzlies and given the fact that the bear I saw the day before didn’t seem scared of humans AT ALL, I felt more comfortable carrying it, even with the people around.  I also have a bear bell on my backpack, which jingles to warn animals I’m coming.  If you hike alone, they say you should talk or sing to yourself, but let’s be real, who wants to do that for several miles in the wilderness?  My bear bell seemed to do the trick – which was apparently to get the attention of every man within a half mile radius, many of whom commented on it or asked what it was.   So there you go – if you want to meet a man, consider getting a bear bell?  Don’t hike?  Maybe just wear it around the office!?  Or at the grocery store?  I digress.

The lake was gorgeous!  It was so clear and you could see the fallen trees at the bottom from past avalanches.  I walked at the edge of the lake for a bit and sat and had a snack and just enjoyed the scenery.  Even though I wasn’t alone, it was very peaceful just sitting alongside that lake.

After I got back to the car, I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich and walked over to the creek near the parking area and sat on the stone wall to eat.

After lunch, I drove down to the Lake McDonald Lodge and wandered down to the lake shore.  Lake McDonald, at 10 miles long and 500 feet deep, is the largest lake in the park.  It is beautiful with the colorful rocks on its bottom, and the mountains rising above.  The valley where Lake McDonald sits was carved by the glaciers that existed here, and the valleys between the mountains are also evidence of glacial activity.  The lodge itself was constructed between 1913 and 1914 in the Swiss Chalet style.  I love these old lodges!  I parked myself in the shade, and even dozed off on the shore until some bratty kids came along and were knocking down all the cute little rock cairns that people had built.  I watched the boat tours go by – one day I would like to take one, but I just wasn’t feeling in the mood that day.

On my way back to camp, I stopped by the Alberta Visitor Center and checked it out.  Glacier National Park is so close to Canada it makes sense for them to have a Visitor’s Center there!  I have said it before, but I really want to see the Canadian parks north of Glacier!  There is never enough time to do everything though.

I also visited the historic Belton Train Station.  Belton was one of the stations where trains came to deliver visitors to the park in its early days.  It was constructed in 1910 by the Great Northern Railroad and enlarged in 1935; the same railroad also built the Belton Chalet Hotel across the road.  It would have been so cool to have the experience back then!

Belton Train Station

 

Ground squirrels at the Belton Station

I went back to camp and relaxed that evening.  I deserved to take a break since I had logged over 20,000 steps!  I also spent some time talking to the young guys at the campsite next door to me.  They were from Savannah, GA and Kansas and had met there for a guys trip to Glacier.  It was nice to have some social interaction and I enjoyed my time sitting around their campfire.  And apparently both of them slept through my car alarm that morning – whew!  It was a nice end to another great day!